The Importance of Mentoring Women in Science
The National Research Committee has issued a report encouraging women in science to seek multiple mentors during all stages of their career, citing evidence that women research faculty may benefit from mentoring even more than men. For example, the NRC has shown that female assistant professors with no mentors had 68 percent probability of having grant funding versus 93 percent of women with mentors (the same was not found to be true for male faculty with and without mentors). More woman than men report having mentors: among tenure-track faculty, 57% of women and 49% of men were in mentoring relationships.
Cathy Trower of the Collaborative on Academic Careers in Higher Education (COACHE) at Harvard University has examined many issues related to career satisfaction and motivation of research faculty. According to her research, woman in research positions tend to be less satisfied with their careers than male research faculty. Trower recommends that departments provide mentoring for all faculty to encourage a better sense of belonging. Mentoring helps address the feelings of isolation and marginalization often reported by women in academic settings. Among science, technology, mathematics and engineering faculty in the COACHE survey, women rated the importance of formal mentoring significantly higher than men did. Trower told AAUW, “Mentoring is crucial for STEM women because without it they might not be privy to the good old boys’ club or behind the scenes conversations that are crucial to fitting in the department and to getting tenure” (Why so Few?). Interestingly, Trower reports that informal mentoring relationships are even more important for women in STEM careers than formal mentoring. Trower believes that this may be because “informal relationships arise organically, and because they are not part of a formal process, they may feel more natural, closer, more trusting and honest, which may be especially important to women in STEM, who are often in a numerical minority in their departments.” It is interesting to compare these results to other research looking at mentoring in the workplace (see cimrblog post from March 25, 2010)
- Gender Differences at Critical Transitions in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty, (2009), Committee on Gender Differences in the Careers of Science, Engineering, and Mathematics Faculty; Committee on Women in Science, Engineering, and Medicine; Committee on National Statistics; National Research Council. Published by National Academies Press
- Why So Few? Women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics, (2010) American Association of University Women
- Reaching Gender Equity in Science: The Importance of Role Models And Mentors, (2010) by Laura Bonetta, Science Careers